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Nepal's Monarch Is Teetering

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`A STUDENT is raped by police after demonstrations at a provincial university; she is brought to a hospital in the capital where the country's queen, hearing about the incident, visits her. A rare sign of royal compassion in this obscure feudal nation. When she receives her bedside visitor, however, the girl spits at the queen, and shouts contempt for the regime this royal personage represents. Whereupon an order is issued for the girl's execution.'' This is a report recently received from Nepal. While details of the student's execution are not yet confirmed, the story points up the gravity of the present situation in Nepal. Confrontations between the people and the monarchy have reached a point of no return. The level of brutality in this mountain nation of 17 million, where Americans spend pleasant holidays trekking through Himalayan wilderness, has finally been exposed.

This is not the first time that Nepalis have revolted to pursue justice. From the 1950s, Nepal's people have repeatedly called for a democratic government. Opposition began with the establishment of this monarchy itself, in 1951, when the present king's grandfather, Tribhuvan, overthrew an earlier dynasty. After him, King Mahenda ruled the landlocked country with an iron fist; and his son Birendra, the present monarch, does the same.

At any sign of protest, universities were shut down, rebels routed and jailed, and leaders forced into exile. The status quo was always restored, with the king and his handpicked cabinet continuing to rule what they called a ``constitutional monarchy.''

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